This is something the news tribe did not understand went it first went online around 1996. It saw the Web as a good way to re-purpose its content from the old platform; and while the Web can do that, the idea of re-purposing news content had a huge intellectual cost. It did not help the tribe understand the ground on which it had to rebuild. It permitted the press to delay the date of migration.
Migration Point for the Press Tribe, Jay Rosen
Newspapers got it all wrong when the went online. Simply shoveling their content from the print product into a template website and saying, “There, we’re online.”
But, they’ve never really been ‘first class citizens’ of the web. Newspapers are still not doing simple things like linking or tagging or using social media. They’re online in that they have a website, but their still using a print mentality to maintain it.
I propose that this is because news organizations still haven’t realized that the internet has changed the definition of a journalist. During this week’s #collegejourn chat I proposed that:
“journalists, at least in the new media sense, are nothing more than experts in a field that have the ability to create mass media based on that expertise.”
Based on this definition, journalists should be viewed as community leaders, people that know a lot about a topic, and therefore are respected enough by the community to inform others. This makes them something of a mixture of a columnist (read: blogger), a reporter (read: blogger), and a content creator (read: photographer/videographer/designer/infographics-maker/databaseminer/developer).
If we extrapolate this out to the newspaper as a whole, the future might very well be an organization that consists of many journalists that can provide mass media to a relevant community.
Newspapers are used to being limited to geographic communities because they were limited by their physical product that never could reach outside that demographic. The Internet gives us a publish button that puts content up for the whole world to instantly see. The word “community” is no longer limited to geography, it can now apply to any niche of information.
The company Gawker Media, has taken advantage of this new definition. They host nearly a dozen websites that cover a specific niche. From tech news to celebrity gossip, each site has it’s own coverage of a particular niche of information. This includes both original content and aggregation. Anything, just so long as their site gives a complete picture of the niche they’re covering.
A Geographic Niche
With that model in mind, let’s get back to newspapers, who are best at covering the geographic niche. There are ways for newspapers to turn their websites into first class web citizens and stop re-purposing of print content, that doesn’t do a good job of serving their community.